"Do my children see me as a submissive parent?"
This is a common question among many of us parents. We approach our children with respect, compassion, and understanding, and we stick to this stance even through stressful parent-child conflicts.
Doubting whether our parenting style causes a lack of discipline, we try to wrap our heads around how to teach our kids to cooperate, confront difficulties, and grow into resilient adults who care about other people too.
The truth is, discipline doesn't have to be harsh. And siding with our children does not have to result in self-centeredness.
In this article, you will learn about the sweet spot between strict and submissive parenting. And I will show you how you can apply it in your everyday parenting.
The relationship between parenting style and children’s behavior
In the 1960s Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist studied 100 preschoolers and their parents. Her work identified 3 parenting styles, affecting the children's development and behaviors in varying ways. She theorized that most parents fall into one of these 3 styles: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive.
Another research from the 1980s built on Baumrind's theory, introducing a fourth parenting style: neglectful parenting.
Let's understand what these 4 parenting styles represent:
Authoritarian parents love rules. They care about school grades, manners, and responsibilities. These parents don't give much explanation to their children about why they set these rules, and they don't consider their children's opinions. These parents use punishment as a means to discipline. Authoritarian parents raise successful kids but it might come with the cost of low self-esteem and a people-pleaser attitude.
Permissive parents fail to set boundaries. Permissive parents are loving, empathetic, and hands-on, but they do not let their children experience the consequences of negative situations. These parents are usually raised by authoritarian parents and present a backlash to it. They think that "kids are kids," and do not set many boundaries. They can't tolerate bad feelings and want them gone. These parents tend to raise children who are self-centered and lack self-control.
Neglectful parents do not intervene in their children's lives. They are busy with their own lives, usually workaholics, and fail to be active role models in their children's lives. Some of the neglectful parents might be substance addicts or they might be struggling with mental health conditions. Children raised by these parents rank lower in happiness and perform poorly at school.
Authoritative parents provide authority and affection in balance. These parents have high expectations of their children but they guide their children in achieving these. These parents are hands-on and compassionate. They forgive mistakes by considering children's emotions but they also set healthy boundaries. Research finds that authoritative parenting is the best parenting style especially in Western cultures. Children of these parents have a high self-esteem and good relationships. These parents are also the most involved and happiest of all four parenting styles.
Now let's see how these 4 parenting styles would act in a real-life situation.
Here's what happens: You are out with your child and her stroller. Without noticing, she drops one of her favorite toys and loses it. When you get home, she realizes her toy is gone, and she gets teared up.
Authoritarian parent: "I told you to leave that toy at home. It was obvious that you were going to drop it. This should teach you a lesson. Next time, you will remember to leave your valuable items at home."
This child will probably learn to leave her favorite toy at home next time. But she also thinks that her parent doesn't care about her feelings. Although losing a toy is a natural consequence, her parent made it sound like a punishment. She might develop her own coping mechanisms against a loss, which might be unhealthy ones such as obsessively trying to guard her toys.
Permissive parent: "Baby, don't cry. Look, here's another one of your favorite toys, remember the polar bear? I promise to drive you to the store tomorrow and we'll buy the exact same toy you lost! But try not to drop your toys next time we go out with your stroller, okay?"
This child is happy to be getting back her favorite toy but she missed out on an important opportunity. She could not learn how the deal with some strong emotions such as disappointment, sadness, and loss. Her strong feelings were pushed away. Next time she loses something, she will expect to have it back right away, and in situations where this is not possible, she will have a hard time dealing with the loss.
Neglectful parent: "It's no big deal. You have other toys. Go play with them and you'll forget about the one you lost in no time. Don't cause me trouble over this. I already had an exhausting day. Make sure you don't lose another one next time."
This child learns that her emotions are not worthy of being heard. She also probably doesn't learn how and why to take care of her favorite belongings. Instead, she learns to suppress her emotions and doesn't know what to do when she has similar ones. She also feels like a failure for causing her parents trouble.
Authoritative parent: "I can see how painful it is to lose your favorite toy. It seems that it was no one's fault. We sometimes lose things that are dear to us, and you know what, they might never come back. Come on, I will give you a cuddle now. While we cuddle, you can tell me what you loved the most about that toy. Maybe we can find another toy that makes you feel in a similar way.
This child learns to deal with loss and also her feelings are acknowledged and welcome. She doesn't feel guilty for dropping the toy and she understands that this is not the end of the world but is given space to experience her loss and "mourn" over her favorite toy. She also develops mental skills to identify why that toy was so important for her.
These are the 4 parenting styles in action. Just remember, you do not necessarily have to fit into one style. Many of us are a combination of these styles, but one is more dominant over the others. These styles also help us realize our intentions with our parenting and where we want to lean towards. ❤️